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oh dear it’s “the reaper whose name is death”

*Anne of Green Gables spoiler alert.122e446a5c19f8d0aa840a3e4a3d3528

Last night Nora and I end our bedtime chapter of Anne of Green Gables and I start to worry. A mention of Matthew’s health, a possible bank collapse and then a wonderful eulogistic conversation between Matthew and Anne…? My writer’s brain knows what is likely coming next in the plot. Nora listens, happily oblivious, kicking her legs and sipping her tea. Before I can close the book fast enough she catches a few words from the next chapter heading and asks, alarmed, “Mommy, does the next chapter say “death?!””

“Oh maybe, time to brush your teeth.”

“Is someone going to DIE in Anne of Green Gables?! That isn’t a very good kid’s story!”

“Whatever happens next, Nora, it is going to be okay, because Anne is smart and she is loved and it’s a beautiful story. Please brush your teeth.”

She slinks off to the sink, suspiciously.

Tonight I get her into her pajamas early because I know what’s coming. I know it’s going to be an ordeal. I let her have a milk shake today. A special treat. Because sure enough, within the first paragraph, Matthew falls dead on the door step. Upon reading this (as I had forgotten this part from my youth) I start to choke up, being the little sucky poo that I am. Nora hears the word “death” and she literally leaps out of her chair and runs to the other side of the room and presses her back against the wall. She implores, frantically, her eyes wide,

“Mommy, Mommy, why would they kill Matthew, he is the best character. I think he’s just sleeping!”

“No, dear, I think he’s passed away, due to a heart attack it seems…”

“But Anne isn’t even a grown up yet, he can’t die! This is a TERRIBLE TERRIBLE kid’s story!”

“Is it?”

“Yes!”

“But Nora…you’re a kid…and you already know what death feels like. You’ve lost a grandpa and an aunt-”

“And a sister”

“Yes. So it’s kind of true that death happens. Even for kids.”

“Yeah…”

“Don’t you think…in some ways…that’s really the honest thing? Don’t you think that makes for a good story because it’s kind of real?”

Her eyes well up with tears and she throws her little arms around me and she cries big splashy tears worthy of Anne herself, and I continue to read about Matthew’s burial and the sweet little Scotch roses Anne puts on his grave. I blubber along too and at one point we both just stop to sniffle and sob and then it turns into great gales of laughter.

“Aren’t we softies?”

“Yeah! It’s only a story! But I love Matthew so much.”

“Me too.”

“I think you have to stop reading, Mommy, I can’t take it anymore. I just can’t take it.”

“Oh…just you wait and see…let’s push through it…”

And indeed, Anne discovers she can still appreciate a sunset and laugh with Diana without Matthew around. Though her pleasure almost feels like a kind of betrayal, she also knows he would have wanted her to enjoy life. We read further and Marilla’s old flame for John Blythe pops up and Nora’s eyes fly wide open.

“Marilla’s love life with John is JUST like Anne’s love life with Gilbert!”

I wiggle my eyebrows at her suggestively and fold the page over.

“Oh Mommy, Mommy, keep reading!”

“I thought it was too sad…”

“Well…I have to find out about Gilbert! I HAVE TO! I bet she marries him. I just bet she does, because the whole book talks about him the entire time and he’s the only one as smart as her!”

“We’ll just have to wait and see. Go brush your teeth.”

Off she bounces in her jammies.

I sigh and think of all the books I’ve read on storytelling and it comes down to love and death, love and death, love and death. And a little bit of this and that in-between.

 

 

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5 comments

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  1. Kindred Spirit

    I’ve just been “rereading” Anne of Green Gables on Audible.com and am listening daily on my ipad. I made the mistake of listening ahead to the next chapter ( of Matthew’s death) in the morning while getting ready for my workday. Trying to apply eye make up and getting ready for business while bawling at the loss of Matthew was an impossible task. And this is my second ( at least) time through the book and I knew the deluge of tears was waiting in the wings! Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist the forward momentum of the story. The brilliant storytelling of LM Montgomery is irresistibly compelling regardless of whether you’re 7 or 37 (LM is yet another reason among many that the world needs a little more Canada!) The best part is that she was gracious enough to keep the story going for seven more Anne books full of life-affirming, page-turning wonderfulness. Softies everywhere, rejoice! 🙂

    1. Lucia Frangione

      absolutely! haha, eye make up! I love the compassionate raccoon look.

  2. Diane Tucker

    How wonderful that your are raising someone who cries at stories and will love what’s real. Mother’s Day belongs to you this year!

  3. Beth Mulder

    Just have to say this. I am so enjoying your posts Lucia! And today, about Anne of Green Gables – ahhh! My favourite book of all time to this day and I didn’t even read it until my teen years. Thank you so much for . . . . just writing. Your daughter sounds like a beautiful girl on the inside and I am sure on the outside as well.

  4. Leah

    oh, oh, oh how beautiful. i was right there with the two of you. thank you for reading this to us!!!

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